In the Spotlight
By Laura Jenkins
Special Collaboration with #Corrine IRL
Dustin Thompson and the coatrack he took from inside the US Capitol.
January 6 protester Dustin Thompson was found guilty on Thursday of a felony and several misdemeanors.
After Dustin Thompson’s guilty verdict was read, he was removed from the courtroom in shackles, with little objection from his attorney. It wasn’t expected that he’d be ordered detained like this before sentencing.
As two older security guards removed his belt, ring, and personal items from his pockets, Judge Reggie Walton said in a harsh tone that Thompson was “weak-minded.”
How could this have been prevented?
- American Gulag had an observer inside the room this week. Here is what we saw.
- Thompson appeared emotionally uninvolved. The jury needed an opportunity to see him as a fellow human being.
He initially admitted feeling depressed for an extended period. As the trial went on, he stared blankly out at the jury. The entire time, Thompson was distanced from his attorney Samuel Shamansky. He did not confer with him or ask him any questions. The only time Shamansky and Thompson appeared together was during the verdict reading-in which Thompson’s face was expressionless again.
It seemed odd Thompson could not provide a reason for attending the rally. In addition, he could not describe why he stole a coat rack or bulletproof vest. None of his family, friends, or community members attended the trial. There was only one day in which a lone, impeccable dressed woman accompanied him from the courtroom to the outside area-showing no emotion either.
The only emotion our team witnessed was a feigned cry when Thompson was taken away in shackles. He looked at an individual in the front row as though begging for help.
Here is footage of Thompson outside the courthouse. He offered to speak with our team again after the trial but did not have the opportunity.
- Thompson’s defense attorney, Samuel Shamansky, implicated his client, calling him a “rioter” and “insurrectionist.”
When discussing the allegedly stolen coat rack, he also asked: “How does it feel to commit a crime?” This leads the jury to believe a crime has happened. He could have allowed them the opportunity to deliberate and decide for themselves.
The defense called no witnesses. Sarah Thompson was listed in court documents as a witness but did not take the stand.
Shamansky talked to prosecutors William Dreher and Angela Buckner in a friendly manner throughout the day. After Thompson was removed from the courtroom, Shamansky continued to fraternize with them in the jury room. This is not typical practice.
- Despite the requirement judges remaining impartial, Judge Reggie Walton used this trial as a forum to express hatred for President Donald Trump.
As the defense played Trump’s speech before the jury, he spoke words of disdain for President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. He did not stop.
“Anyone who follows Trump is weak-minded. Thompson is a flight risk,” Walton continued, as Thompson was shackled and taken from the courtroom.
- It was as though he saw Thompson and President Trump as the same person.
Judge Walton, “Trump is a charlatan who caused an insurgency. He is tearing America apart. That’s the reason why our country is falling apart. I am proud of the jury for doing this.”
Walton continued lavishly praising the jury, and went into the jury room to sit with them and over 10 prosecutors who were present. He told the group about his personal experiences teaching law in Africa.
“I’m showing [the African people] how we have the best judicial system. I don’t want to see Trump ruin it,” he said.
It seemed odd Judge Walton would take such generous time out of his busy schedule to interact with jurors this way. The day before, he instructed the jury to deliberate quickly and reach a verdict so he could leave the courtroom precisely at 5 o’clock. Judge Walton expressed eagerness to take Friday and Monday off for Easter. Security noted he was the only judge looking to clear his calendar that day.
It is important for citizens to recognize the jury is responsible for judging not only a defendant’s actions- but the judge’s as well. If the jury sees unethical or unprofessional behavior on the part of the judge or the prosecutors, they can decide to acquit the defendant.
Prosecutors William Dreher and Angela Buckner did not leave immediately after this trial either. Here is footage of prosecutors placing a supposed piece of evidence into a vehicle following the trial. (No chain of custody was shown to the jury to assure them this was an actual piece of evidence found on Thompson’s property by authorities.)
After Dreher’s response here, prosecutors did not leave the building. They chose to remain inside for an additional 45 minutes. It seemed like they did not want to interact with a lone member of the media following this case outside.